New Jersey Generals Spoil Michigan Panthers Home Opener

New Jersey Generals Spoil Michigan Panthers Home Opener

The New Jersey Generals went into Detroit and outplayed the Michigan Panthers from start to finish. The final score of 28-13 was more lopsided than a lot expected –  but it was an entertaining game throughout with momentum shifting a few times after the Generals jumped out to an early 18-point lead. Their defense stepped up and was able to only concede one touchdown to a very good offense in the Panthers. Both teams are now tied for first in the USFL North, at 2-1 with the Generals owning the tiebreaker. Let’s take a look at where the scoring came from in Detroit on Sunday.

Scoring Summary

On the Michigan Panthers first drive of the game, they moved the ball right down the field, but the New Jersey Generals defense stiffened near the red zone and held them to three points. Kicker Cole Murphy nailed a 45-yard field goal to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead off of a 6 play, 30-yard drive.

The Generals immediately answered back on their first possession with a four play, 64-yard touchdown drive. It was capped off with a 51-yard touchdown on a screen pass from quarterback De’Andre Johnson to running back Darius Victor. It was Johnson’s first touchdown of the year and Victor’s first receiving touchdown of the year.

On their second possession the Generals continued their hot start and got into the red zone immediately off of a 71-yard run by De’Andre Johnson. The very next play he ran it in for a touchdown from nine yards out and gave New Jersey a 14-3 lead in just two plays. He accounted for all 80 yards on the drive for his offense.

On their next possession following a defensive stop, the Generals continued their dominance and took a 21-3 lead with a 35-yard touchdown run on a fourth down by Darius Victor, his second of the day. It was their third straight touchdown drive to start the game. This capped off an 8 play, 45-yard drive that took just over four minutes.

The Panthers made the switch to Carson Strong at quarterback after finally getting a stop on defense and it paid off. He was able to find wide receiver Trey Quinn for a 28-yard touchdown pass and bring the score closer at 21-10 with under five minutes remaining in the first half. It was a very nice 9-play, 81-yard drive for Michigan that they desperately needed and was also the final score of the first half.

Second Half

Heading into the second half, the Michigan Panthers forced a three-and-out on defense and took their first possession of the third quarter down the field for a field goal by Cole Murphy. It was a long 16-play, 67-yard drive that ate up over nine minutes of the clock. Murphy finished it off with a 31-yard field goal to make it 21-13, but the Generals still led. The drive stalled in the red zone following some communication issues between Josh Love and OC Eric Marty – on a drive that looked destined to end in a touchdown.

The next and last score we saw came in the fourth quarter after a Josh Love interception by Generals cornerback DJ Daniel. It took one play for the Generals to capitalize with a score after the takeaway. De’Andre Johnson threw a dime to wide receiver Alonzo Moore for a 72-yard touchdown. This increased their lead to 28-13 and helped shift back momentum to New Jersey, as well as put the game away. The score stood pat for the final 12 minutes of the game, and the Generals took this one by two scores.

A Look at the Numbers

De’Andre Johnson finally got a chance to command the offense from start to finish and shined for the New Jersey Generals. He was 10/15 (67%) for 180 yards passing and 2 touchdowns through the air. He also added 98 yards on the ground (9.8 YPC) on 10 rushes along with a rushing touchdown. He would’ve finished with a 100+ yards on the ground if it wasn’t for two kneel downs to end the game.

Darius Victor had another efficient day with 119 total yards on just 10 touches. He added a rushing and receiving touchdown to his resume as well and made the most of every carry and reception, as we have come to expect. Wide receiver Alonzo Moore had a long 72-yard touchdown catch on his one catch for the Generals and was the third standout alongside Johnson and Victor on offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebackers Chris Orr and D’Juan Hines stood out yet again with 10 tackles a piece. Defensive linemen Toby Johnson and Tyshun Render both added a sack and the New Jersey Generals created pressure all day. They had 10 passes defensed as a team and tipped multiple passes at the line of scrimmage. The defense was once again dominant, and they’ve given up just 8 points per game over the last two weeks. The Generals defense seems to be hitting their stride at the perfect time.

Michigan’s Struggles

Josh Love was the primary quarterback for the Panthers on Sunday going 15/31 (48%) for 101 yards passing and an interception. It was a rough day for him as he was constantly under duress and couldn’t consistently push the ball down field. Carson Strong led the Panthers lone touchdown drive going 4/9 (44%) for 62 yards passing, and a touchdown pass in two drives. However, he didn’t look much better and both passers struggled.

Stevie Scott and Reggie Corbin split carries at running back and Corbin left the game early with what appeared to be a rib injury. Scott ran the ball 12 times for 63 yards (5.2 YPC) and Corbin added 38 yards on eight carries (4.8 YPC) along with 27 yards receiving. He was never able to get going entirely and break off the homerun plays we are used to seeing. Despite running the ball well for average, trailing the whole game altered Michigan’s gameplan drastically. Wide receiver Trey Quinn had 5 catches for 61 yards and their sole touchdown. He was open on a consistent basis, but the Generals pass rush didn’t give the passing game enough time for anything sustainable.

On defense the Panthers only registered one sack and gave up 8.8 yards per play as well as nearly 400 yards of total offense. Their bread and butter had been creating turnovers and getting sacks and that wasn’t there for them today. They forced one fumble by De’Andre Johnson but did not create enough negative plays as a whole. They did not have a single tackle for loss and both defensive end Breeland Speaks, and linebacker Frank Ginda were surprisingly quiet all day. Michigan gave up passes of 72 yards and 51 yards for touchdowns, and also gave up a 71-yard run that led to a touchdown one play later. When you give up explosive plays like that and allow touchdowns quickly, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Looking Ahead

The New Jersey Generals should be ecstatic that they had such a dominant showing from all three phases. Their offense was terrific and finally showed consistency, the defense played lights out on all three levels, and their special teams were perfect, both in coverage as well as the kicking/punting game. Quarterback De’Andre Johnson finally led the team all game and that should continue.

Having Darius Victor and Trey Williams back together was also huge. This is the personnel and gameplan they should deploy every week from here on out. The pass rush is the most notable improvement from last season to this season. They only had ten sacks the entire year in 2022, and through three games this year, they have eight already. The linebacker and secondary play are improving every week as well and defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell has his team playing great. They have a huge test next week against the New Orleans Breakers, but this should give them a ton of momentum heading into week four.

On the Michigan Panthers side, it was a tough loss, but this doesn’t spell the end for them. They’re still a very good team that should be in the playoff race all season. Offensive struggles are bound to happen, and I expect a rebound next week at home against the Memphis Showboats. We should see the offense get back on track, and the pass rush show their strength yet again. This was the beginning of a long homestretch for them and there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to rattle off a couple of wins and put this game in the rearview mirror. The next time these two teams match up in week seven should be very exciting and will no doubt have playoff implications.

What are your thoughts on this matchup between the New Jersey Generals and Michigan Panthers? Which USFL players impressed you the most? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!